As corporate organizations tighten their belts, legal teams are striving to deliver value more than ever before. Most are compelled to do that without any additional resources, though. In fact, many of them are experiencing budget reductions. The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted legal departments, bringing a new set of challenges. Many have struggled to accommodate remote work, scrambling to adopt technology to help their teams collaborate more effectively despite physical separation.
How can legal professionals step up to these challenges? Many teams are transitioning to a more operations oriented focus, shifting their departments toward a more systematic approach built around well-defined processes. They’re also applying automation, using tools like contract lifecycle management (CLM) software to accelerate and enable that change. As a result, legal teams are eliminating many of the tedious tasks that have consumed so much of their bandwidth in the past. At the same time, they’re also improving outcomes and delivering substantially greater business value to the organizations they serve.
The role of legal operations in your business
Executives are increasingly recognizing that legal departments can benefit by shifting toward a more operations oriented approach. According to Gartner’s 2020 State of the Legal Function report, there has been a rapid increase in the number of organizations that have a dedicated operations manager or equivalent for their legal department. Nearly 60% of the respondents in Gartner’s 2020 survey had a dedicated legal operations executive, up from just 33% in 2018. Two key functions for that position involve implementing technology to improve legal services and establishing knowledge management processes.
Caroline Van Allen, Senior Research Specialist at Gartner, articulates the need for legal departments to adopt technology more aggressively, including contract management solutions: “In an environment where legal leaders want to reduce spending and yet carry out more complex, unpredictable legal work, legal departments that can use technology solutions and legal operations to drive greater efficiency in-house will be the winners.”
Legal teams are shifting away from a strict professional services philosophy toward a more structured approach that emphasizes well defined, repeatable processes. The results include greater efficiency and consistency, with more opportunities for automation and faster turnaround times on many tasks. Quality improves, as legal teams have an opportunity to apply the principles of continuous improvement to their work.
For growing organizations, clearly defined methodologies and automation also make it far easier to accommodate rapid expansion. Legal teams can expand the scale of their efforts without undue stress.
Gartner’s survey results clearly show that this “work smarter, not harder” approach is gaining momentum.
Contract management software in legal operations
Contract management software offers a number of distinct advantages over the old way of doing things.
First, CLM provides a framework upon which to operationalize key business processes within the legal department. Most organizations deal with a variety of contracts, from relatively simple high-volume customer agreements to negotiated one-off contracts that govern complex projects. CLM offers a structure within which to define the various workflows surrounding those documents.
Naturally, it also adds efficiency through automation, legal clause libraries, and similar features. Legal operations managers can define distinct approval processes for various types of agreements, for example, or for specific categories of decisions. CLM software automates the workflows for those approvals, allows for alternate approvers, and maintains an audit trail showing who made changes and when.
Third, the best CLM software offers powerful contract analytics, giving legal operations managers clear visibility to important metrics. An important benefit of CLM software for many organizations, for example, is deal acceleration. Automated contract review, clause libraries, and approval workflows all help to move the process forward quickly, leading to faster time to revenue. Contract analytics provide measurable evidence of the value legal teams can bring to the organization by operationalizing their business processes.
Within the context of legal operations, CLM also provides a mechanism for follow-through when important dates come up. Contract renewal and termination dates, for example, often come and go unnoticed, resulting in missed opportunities in many cases, or leading the organization to extend commitments that may no longer be serving its interests. CLM software monitors and tracks important dates so that business users can take action within the stated deadlines.
CLM automation and business efficiency
As we have already discussed, CLM software provides substantial efficiencies within the legal department itself. Traditionally, contracting has been a tedious process requiring the focused attention of a knowledgeable legal professional, yet many elements of the process are relatively simple administrative tasks that are easily automated.
With today’s AI technology, many of the more complicated elements of contract management can also be automated, freeing up members of the legal team to focus their attention on important decisions and high-value activities.
The business value of CLM extends far beyond the legal team, though. In the case of repeat business processes like onboarding new customers, contract management software can trigger specific steps within the CLM system itself, or through integration with other enterprise systems like ERP or CRM.
Contract intelligence software extends the benefits of CLM even further, by parsing and analyzing the language within each agreement and translating contractual terms into the specific obligations that govern the business relationship. For example, contract intelligence can help an organization monitor its suppliers and gauge performance relative to contractual terms. By understanding where vendors are falling short, companies can step up their enforcement of contract terms to extract greater business value from their relationships.
As today’s organizations strive to do more with less, legal teams are stepping up to the challenge. Contract lifecycle management software provides a structured framework, automation tools, and powerful analytics to drive business value. Contract intelligence carries those benefits even further by identifying missed opportunities to optimize business relationships.
Icertis Contract Intelligence (ICI) is helping enterprises around the world operationalize their legal function, helping companies to radically improve their efficiency and the overall value they derive from their contracts. To learn more about what Icertis Contract Intelligence (ICI) can do for your organization, request a free, no-obligations demo.